What to Bring To Ethiopia
I disagree strongly about the money belt. I picked one up for around $20 dollars before I left and really didn’t need it. It was hard to access my money and being a “middle age” (*cough-cough*) man who NEEDS a belt, the military style most are made in allowed the buckle to keep slipping off… doing noting for my appearance nor my confidence.
What to Bring to Addis Ababa–Besides The Obvious
- Personal Sleeping Sack. Cheap but invaluable. And with all the reports of bedbugs in all star levels of American hotels, it can even be a “must” when traveling at home. (Example)
- Pullover, sweater or light jacket for the evening (it gets cool at night)
- Clothes that are respectful of the fact that this is a highly religious country (both Christian and Muslim); it is not culturally acceptable to wear very skimpy clothes here, especially not in rural areas or when visiting churches. (It is fine to wear shorts and t-shirts while running.)
- Goldenseal/Echinacea. Take care of your health pilgrims. This ain’t Kansas.
- One set of “Good Clothes” .. you could even go as far as a sports coat or a suit. While prices are low for Ethiopians, they’ll charge you American prices for that extra pair of pants, shoes, shirt, (etc…) once they hear you speak. Why buy an inferior product when you can bring the clothes you like. They haven’t figured out that you’ll buy more if the prices are right. Ethiopia is a conservative country. What to aim for is “Casual Dressy” unless you want to try passing for Ethiopian.
- Ear plugs. There can be a live concert happening anytime, seemingly anywhere. I love my peeps, but Africans don’t always know when to go to bed!
- Cap (Women need a headscarf in churches, or buy a traditional one here.)
- Extra pair of prescription eyeglasses and Sunglasses if you wear them.
- Money: You can easily exchange currency at the airport upon arrival and throughout the country. Banks are everywhere and ATM’s are also. (But it’s wise to bring along about $300 or $400 U.S. Dollars … in $100 bills, and keep them for safe keeping until you leave. Trying to get U.S. dollars from an Ethiopian bank can feel like waiting for an act of God. Only break those $100 bills for official use… like extending your Visa.)
- Tell your bank you’ll be traveling so your Debit and Credit cards work
- Oral Rehydration Salts (e.g. RECOVERORS) and anti-diarrhea tablets (eg Imodium)
- Charger for your mobile phone and make sure the cords to your laptop, camera and phone are in great shape. It’ll cost you more to replace them here than at home.
- Baking Soda! I love Baking Soda and prefer it to tooth paste without all those harmful chemicals. YOU CAN find it here if you really, really look, but it goes by Bicarbonate of Soda and it’s fine grain and not powdery like we’re used to. But if your stomach is upset, add a bit of vinegar and you’ll find it’s the same thing.
- Sandals (But pack lots of socks. Ethiopia is a dusty country.)
- Travel towel if you plan to stay longer than a few weeks and will rent a guest house.
- At LEAST four shirts. Ethiopians are charged 30% taxes so cheap shirts are sold here for American prices. Getting your laundry back can be tricky, so it’s better to pack “enough.”
- Sawyer MINI Water Filter. Every other day I “make water.” Why constantly buy water in plastic bottles when you can use your filter? (example)
- Heating Throw. You don’t need to bring a whole blanket, but while Ethiopia is a mild climate compared to New England, I’ve yet to check into a hotel with either air conditioning nor heat. You don’t need the air conditioning, but Addis sits at a really high altitude and it can get cold at night. (Example)
IF YOU’RE TRAVELING OUTSIDE OF ADDIS (recommended!)
If you are traveling out of Addis, then in addition to the above you should bring:
- Malaria tablets (if you are traveling below 2,000 metres, as you probably will)
- Mosquito bednet (Optional. You can buy a cheap one here.)
- Insect repellent (The airlines love the packet towelettes).
- A sleeping sack (to avoid bedbugs in cheap hotels) (example)
- A small pocket flashlight.
- Day pack. One small enough to carry your laptop and camera in, but not as large as your airplane carry-on.
- Hiking boots if you are going hiking. Ethiopians walk a lot and the roads can often be rough. Sturdy walking shoes or boots will serve you well.
Things you DON’T need
- Travel alarm clock? Your cell phone will do nicely. (Besides, desk clerks are very good at giving you the wake up call you request.)
- Money Belt? —NO, NO, NO! A Passport pouch that you can either wear around your neck or attach to your belt is a far better choice.
- Do you REALLY need your expensive Smart Phone or will a cheaper travel phone that doesn’t have all your critical information on it do?
This list is designed for travelers who will be staying more than two weeks. Hotel prices here can add up quickly and people usually check into guest houses, “condos” or pensions. It is there where you’ll essentially need to set up house.
Also remember that while you can usually get same-day service on your laundry when staying in a hotel, the price of getting your laundry done in Addis will raise your eyebrows and there’s often a week’s wait to get your undies back… unless you pay double. Even then it can take two days.
Sandals (I’m continually shocked that we who live in Developed countries can buy many things cheaper at home … and of better quality… than in so-called “less expensive” nations where once they hear your accent, the prices go up.)